Two Paso Robles organizations aim to cultivate a new generation of consumers and workers for Central Coast vineyards and wineries.
“This is the first generation that buys as much wine as they do beer,” Keith Patterson said. As viticulture professor at Cal Poly, he sees the habits of millennials on campus every day.
The children of the baby boomers, millennials are the most recent consumer target for American industries ranging from snacks to automobiles.
“Marketing to the millennial generation is part of our insurance policy,” said Stacie Jacob, Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance executive director. “It’s our job now to develop those wine buyers of the future.”
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Meanwhile, the Independent Grape Growers of the Paso Robles Area has added a $25 “student” tier to its annual membership structure, hoping to attract those in college and high school with interests in vineyards.
To carve a place for Paso in young consumers’ awareness, Jacob’s organization hosts its third annual Crave event at the San Luis Obispo Veterans Memorial Building on Oct. 22.
Geared at ages 21 to about mid-30s, past Crave tastings have sold out. Tickets are limited to 400.
“This is a phenomenal idea,” Patterson said. “Something like Crave gives them an opportunity to try varietals they may not have heard of or brands they may not have heard of.”
And marketing research shows that millenials — more than their parents — love new things, he added. With short attention spans and little brand loyalty, they’re as willing to pick up a bottle from Argentina as one from Templeton.
“This generation pays more attention to word of mouth, whether it’s through social media or not, than traditional advertising,” Patterson said. “They grew up in an age of being bombarded with advertising. They’re almost immune to it.”
Consequently, the Crave marketing team focuses on Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare online services as much as they do on the Mustang Daily and pitches via the university Wines and Vines club.Tickets are $45 in advance and $55 at the door.
To promote safety, organizers post banners urging tasters to follow their “swirl, smell, sip” with “spit” instead of swallow.
Shuttles to the event have added downtown Paso to the list of stops, which include the Cal Poly Student Union, Laguna Shopping Center and downtown San Luis Obispo.
While Crave attracts both consumers and those interested in wine industry careers, the Independent Grape Growers is reaching out to future viticulturists.
“We not only help existing growers, but anybody who wishes to become one,” group President Richard Sauret said.
With about 300 grower, friend and associate members, the group offers seminars on vineyard management, available to all student members.
Those under 21 just can’t attend social functions where wine is served.
Cal Poly stresses to its 600 wine and viticulture majors and minors the importance of networking, which can lead to internships and jobs, Patterson said.
“The wine industry is still a people business,” he added. “A handshake and a look in the eye mean a lot.”
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